By Oliver Berger –

Arts Wells 2017 was the only music festival that actually ran this year in the Cariboo Region due to ‘you know what’. Boasting over 100 acts in over 10 different venues situated all throughout the colourful community, this is one music festival that is hard to miss.

Armed with a picker, Oliver is ready to educate about waste at Arts Wells 2017. Photo: Mary Forbes
Armed with a picker, Oliver is ready to educate about waste at ArtsWells 2017. Photo: Mary Forbes

This year I was fortunate to partake in the events as well as another activity I enjoy doing: waste management.

In collaboration with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, Mary Forbes and I went up with a waste station she built and we planted ourselves right on the main drag across from the community hall. Talk about exposure.

Educating the public about waste diversion, we accepted everything from papers to cans, glass to compost and even completed the station with a handy Share Shelf. Those of you familiar with Share Sheds will understand this concept. The only item we did not accept was garbage.

The organizers of Arts Wells used all the existing garbage cans in and around town, coupled with recycling bins and tin cans to butt out your smokes. They also co-ordinated a group of festival volunteers giving them some highly waste-experienced leaders and the title: The Green Team.

The Green Team had a sorting tent set up where they sifted through all incoming garbage and recyclables. Simply put, it was amazing.

A small truck scooted around town all weekend emptying the garbage cans, recycling bins, and butt cans. They also took care of most of the vendor and food truck leftovers as well as emptied some of the bins at our waste station.

We were an army of waste enthusiasts rolling around the festival, all doing our part to take care of the waste that some people just don’t seem to realize they create.

With our minds combined we found destinations for all of the accumulated waste. As the compost bins in Wells were already over-burdened, Mary and I decided to take the compost from the festival and bring it back to The Potato House. I took it upon myself to bring all the ciggy butts from the weekend back to my good friend Megan in Coquitlam who can send them away for recycling. Another lady in our group from Vancouver had an avenue for all those non-stretchy, crinkly, chip-baggy types of plastic that we cannot recycle here. I remember at one point while I was helping in the sort tent, the only items that were actually going into the garbage were the ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ plastic-type food packaging.

Oh how I love the irony.

In total, The Potato House Project received almost 350 lbs/160 kg of food waste combined with hand-ripped paper packaging, a great carbon additive. The feedstock is now piled, watered, and ready to be turned into beautiful black gold which will be showcased at next year’s waste station. I redirected approximately 15 lbs/6.8 kg of cigarette butts from the landfill. A cube van rolled off the site stacked full of refundable beverage containers that will go to donation. And to finish it off beautifully, the recycling depot in Wells set up by the Cariboo Regional District accepted some of the recyclables from the public.

As you can imagine, dealing with all the leftovers from hundreds of humans, especially while they are enjoying life on another level, can be overwhelming. We send a huge shout out to The Green Team and all those who spent time in between music and dancing to bend over and pick up trash, or sort through mucky food-waste-mixed recyclables, and consistently donate time and muscles to rearrange matter that is out of place. Thank you.

Oliver has a 35-year degree in life, starting out in the Spokin Lake area, spending adolescence in Williams Lake, and then venturing throughout the world on a quest of always learning new things. His priorities include dedication to and education about waste management.


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